How are server systems classified

Representation of different computer types and server systems

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 What are "computers"?
2.1 About the terms "computer" and "server"
2.2 Classification of computers and servers into different types

3 Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Types of Computers

4 rating


1 Introduction

Today computers are an integral part of our private and professional everyday life. No other medium has influenced and changed our lives as strongly as the computer. The name "computer" comes from English and can be derived from the verb

"To compute" and means "computer". But it is by no means the case that one can only imagine a small calculating machine. A computer can do a lot more than that.

So what exactly do we mean by the term “computer”?

What types are there and with what features?

How are “servers” defined and what makes them different from one another?

The present work tries to answer these fundamental questions roughly in order to make the topic more transparent.

Chapter 2 explains the basic terms “computer” and “server” and divides them into different types with regard to their areas of application.

Chapter 3 deals with the advantages and disadvantages of using a computer and concludes in Chapter 4 with a brief assessment of the various computers in terms of their performance and possible applications.

2 What are "computers"?

2.1 About the terms "computer" and "server"

According to the DIN definition, a "computer" is "a functional unit for processing data, namely for performing mathematical, transforming, transferable and storing operations." [1][1]. Accordingly, a computer is able, among other things, to store large amounts of information, to sort this data, to search for affiliations and individual pieces of information, to make assignments and to control other devices. These properties, namely automatically processing data electronically, can be summarized under the term “electronic data processing” or “EDP” for short. Computers are freely programmable universal machines, i.e. the user enters something (input), the computer processes the data entered in a desired manner (program) - and delivers a result (output) [2].

Important and significant with this so-called "EVA" principle (input - processing - output) [3] are the processing speed of computers, the breaking down of a task into many sub-steps, the solution through repetition, the use of programs and the consistent accuracy. A computer is all the more valuable in terms of quality if it performs as much as possible with little effort and in the shortest possible time.

The work potential of computers has increased many times since the beginning of computers, while their physical dimensions have been reduced many times over at the same time. For example, there was space for a total of 2300 transistors on the first Intel PC processor from 1971. In 2010, such a microchip contained over 400 million individual transistors [4]. The designs of computers have changed significantly over the years with technical progress and usage habits. But despite the external changes, i.e. in shape and size, the internal structure and general functionality of the various types of computers are not the same, but very similar. There are differences in performance and data processing speed. These are examined in more detail in the following chapters.

A “server” is a computer or a program in a network that offers other computers (i.e. so-called “clients” or “inquirers”) or programs special services [5]. Instead of a server, the term “host” is also used. Servers manage resources and hold information that can be accessed by multiple users. This query is made by the "clients", i.e. a computer connected to the network, which forwards requests and tasks to a server. A server is always on standby in order to be able to react at any time to the contact of a client [6].

In the global computer network, which in turn is made up of several individual networks, the individual computers in this network represent these "servers". For example, they can provide resources such as printers, shared data, data storage, software applications or various communication requirements. If the server is only intended to serve a single task, it is called a “dedicated server”. If a server is not “dedicated” (non-dedicated server), it can also perform other tasks [7].

Fig. 1.2.1 shows a server embedded in a network. This contains important and large amounts of data, which it makes available to the workstations "around it", i.e. all connected computers.

Figure not included in this excerpt[8]

Fig .: 1.2.1 - Copyright © 2006 Intec Software Engineering

2.2 Classification of computers and servers into different types

Computers are of different sizes and can be divided into the following six main classes according to their performance [9]:

- portable / mobile computers
- Workstation computer / personal computer (universal computer)
- Workstations / network servers / data servers
- Department computers / networked workstations
- Mainframe / mainframe
- supercomputer

The different types of computers are briefly explained below based on their application. The more complex and powerful the performance, the higher both the price and the size of the computers will be.

- portable / mobile computers

With the increasing miniaturization of PC components, more and more compact devices have established themselves in work and everyday life. Such portable, location-independent computers are currently available in the form of notebooks, laptops, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), cell phone communicators, tablet PCs, pocket PCs and navigation systems, to name but a few.

- Workstation computer / personal computer (universal computer)

Workstation computers or personal computers are intended for "exclusive use by one or a few users". They are often used as terminals for mainframes or connected to network systems [10].

- Workstations / network servers / data servers

Workstations are mostly high-performance computers, related to a workplace and usually represent a "middle thing" between PCs and mainframes. They are mainly used for very compute-intensive special applications in the technical or scientific field (e.g. for technical constructions or various graphic applications); often also as a server in small networks.

- Department computers / networked workstations

This type of computer has a high computing power, supplies several workstations with their capacity and is sometimes also used as a central computer [11]as long as it is well equipped and equipped

- Mainframe / mainframe

Mainframes are computers or computer systems to which up to several thousand users can be connected[12]. Usually they access multiple storage devices with huge amounts of data and have huge amounts of RAM. Large computers are built in such a way that they can solve a wide variety of tasks with changing programming. The operation of such computers is reserved for experts. "Normal" users only have access to these computers via terminals. From a terminal, the user can access, read and sometimes change data that has been authorized for him. It has no influence on the programming of the computer.

The most powerful and fastest large computers are used for extremely computationally intensive problems, e.g. for military purposes or in science. In these areas, the administrators of these computers also determine the type of programming.

Further examples of mainframe use with large amounts of data are e.g.

the Federal Criminal Police Office, insurance companies, banks and trading companies[13].

Because of the prices alone, the use of mainframes is primarily reserved for these large administrations, insurance companies and industrial companies.

- supercomputer

A special variant of the mainframe computer is the supercomputer [14]. It has a powerful main memory and enormous computing capacity (TFLOPSb ), so that it is used in the field of high-performance data processing (HPC = High Performance Computing). Because of its very high computing speed, it is mainly used for extremely complex calculations that are found in very special scientific and technical areas. Examples would be world climate simulations, aircraft construction or space research.

The currently “strongest” or fastest supercomputer in the world (see Fig. 1.2.2 “K Computer”) is located in Japan and delivers an output of 10.51 “petaflops” (~ eight quadrillion arithmetic steps per second).

Figure not included in this excerpt [15]

Fig .: 1.2.2 - “K Computer” - Copyright 1995 - 2011 FUJITSU LIMITED - All rights reserved.

Servers are a special type of computer and are classified according to the number of users they use and their purpose. Just as computers with increasing performance of PCs and workstations are divided into supercomputers via departmental and mainframe computers, servers can also be grouped depending on the size of their area of ​​application: from workgroup servers (personal computers) to departmental servers (workstations) to so-called Enterprise servers (mainframes for companies).

Workgroup servers support several PC workstations with regard to shared services. Mostly they serve as application, file, print or web servers for the workgroups. Due to their higher main memory capacity, the department servers supply far more workstations than the workgroup servers [16].

They are mainly used in large companies for data backup, but also for email services and network administration. If very large amounts of data need to be processed and managed, enterprise servers come into play. Their performance corresponds to that of mainframes.


[1] German Institute for Standardization e.V .: [Online]

[2] West German Radio Cologne; Südwestrundfunk; Bayerischer Rundfunk: [Online]

[3] Blacks, Jochen. Introduction to business informatics. 5th, completely revised edition. Herne; Berlin: Verlag Neue Wirtschafts-Briefe GmbH & Co., 2000, p. 46ff.

[4] Multimedia SRF Swiss radio and television: [Online]!videos

[5] Voss, Andreas. The big PC & Internet Lexicon 2004. Düsseldorf: DATA BECKER GmbH & Co. KG, 2003, p.799.

[6] Wikipedia: [Online]

[7] Wikipedia: [Online]


[9] Schneider, Uwe; Werner, Dieter. Computer science paperback. Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2007, p.129.

a Terminal = consisting of a screen and keyboard, enables the user to interact with a computer.

[10] Stahlknecht, Peter; Hasenkamp, ​​Ulrich. Introduction to business informatics. 11th, completely revised edition. Berlin; Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2005, p.15.

[11] Blacks, Jochen. Introduction to business informatics. 5th, completely revised edition. Herne; Berlin: Verlag Neue Wirtschafts-Briefe GmbH & Co., 2000.

[12] Alexander Kirk, Computerlexikon.Com [Online]:

[13] IT-online [Online]:

[14] ITWissen [Online]:

b TFLOPS = Trillions of Floating Point Operations Per Second = number of commands processed per second on average.

[15] Fujitsu: [Online]

[16] Hansen, Hans Robert; Mendling, Jan; Neumann, Gustaf. Business informatics, 11th edition, 2015, p.521ff.

End of the reading sample from 12 pages